Vietnamese New Year, also known as Tet Festival, is the most important festival of the year in Vietnam. Its name, Tet, is an abbreviation for Tet Nguyen Dan, which is Vietnamese for the feast of the first morning of the first day of their calendar.
In 2023, Tet falls on January 22nd (Sunday). It is a Year of the Cat. Cat is the fourth sign in Vietnamese Zodiac, taking place of the Rabbit in Chinese Zodiac.
What is Tet in Vietnam?
Americans might recall the 1968 Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. Tet Nguyen Dan, shortened to Tet, is Vietnam’s Lunar New Year and is the most important annual celebration and public holiday in Vietnam spanning 5-7 days.
Tet celebrates the beginning of a new year as well the coming of spring. Exuberant festivities are held — traditional food, music and dragon dancing performed along the streets. During this time there is a real sense of celebration in the air, making it a festive time to visit Vietnam.
Celebrated as a time of renewal, Tet serves as an opportunity for Vietnamese people to pay homage to their ancestors and have family reunions.
Preparations usually begin a week before Tet, as people start to return home, clean their family graves, worship at their family altars and decorate their homes with apricot blossoms, peach blossoms and kumquat trees, symbolizing the hope of prosperity and well-being.
When is Tet?
Tet is based on the lunar calendar, and generally celebrated on the same day as the Chinese New Year. The date changes annually, but falls between mid-January and late February. Most Vietnamese people will have five days off for Tet.
Tet celebrations can range from 3 days and continue for up to one week. The festival is split into the day before New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
All of these days correspond to the Vietnamese or lunar calendar, so they will happen on a different date every year. Tet Festival falls on Sunday, January 22nd in 2023.
Here are the dates for the next coming Vietnamese New Year celebrations, as well as the Lunar Zodiac Animals associated with them.
- 2023: January 22 – Year of the Cat
- 2024: February 10 – Year of the Dragon
- 2025: February 29 – Year of the Snake
- 2026: February 17 – Year of the Horse
More about the celebration schedule for Tet Vietnam 2023 >>>
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How to celebrate the Tet?
Of all festivals in Vietnam, Tet is the most family-centered holiday, and Vietnamese people often travel back to the places where their families are from to spend the holiday with their extended families. On Tet, families will prepare a feast to welcome visiting relatives and friends, to exchange greetings and best wishes for the New Year.
Sharing similarities with Chinese New Year, Vietnamese New Year is important for the Vietnamese people as it is believed that what they do on the first day of the year will affect the rest of the year. Therefore, they pay great attention to every word they say and everything they do on this day.
√ Before Tet: Cleaning and Shopping
Before Tet, Vietnamese families will normally spend a lot of time sweeping and cleaning their homes. This action represents the cleansing of bad luck from the previous year and making room for the coming of the New Year.
The Vietnamese believe that the spirits of deceased family members will visit the living ones during Tet, so they venerate the ancestors by cleaning their family shrines, creating a display of pictures of ancestors with burning incense, and presenting offerings of flowers and fruit. Before Tet, the shrines are well cleaned and new offerings and decorations are placed there.
The intense festival atmosphere fills the streets with dazzling displays of colorful flowers. People shop around markets to buy decorations for their homes, ingredients to cook traditional Tet food, and new clothes for wearing when visiting friends at the New Year.
√ The Lunar New Year’s Day – Tet
The first day of Tet, however, is typically reserved for the nuclear family. On this day, children will receive red envelopes with money from their older relatives.
New Year’s Day is celebrated with people in the streets making loud noises, using firecrackers, drums, bells, and gongs to ward off evil spirits. There is also a parade that takes place on this day. Parades happen all over the cities; lively events full of people wearing masks and performing lion dances.
After the firecrackers and parades, families come together for a large feast of traditional Vietnamese dishes.
Since the Vietnamese believe that the first visitors to a family determines their fortune for the whole year, they like to invite someone of good morality to be the first ones visiting the house to bring them full blessings for the New Year.
Tet is also considered a lucky time of year for opening a shop or starting a business.
What is the traditional food for Tet festival?
You can take part in the Tet festival by trying traditional Vietnamese food! Tet is a time of indulgence with an array of delicacies served in every family, from pork, chicken, and sticky rice to candied fruit. The following three delicious dishes are the most popular ones eaten by Vietnamese people during Tet as part of their celebration.
√ Banh Chung
Only eaten in Vietnam during Tet, this tasty treat is made of tightly-packed sticky rice, which may include either a meat filling or a bean spread. This sticky rice is then traditionally wrapped in banana leaves, to keep the inside fresh for the duration of the festival.
√ Gio or Chag
This Vietnamese ham or sausage is often served with sticky rice during Tet. You can order this festival food in two different ways; Gio means the meat is boiled and if you ask for cha you will receive meat that has been fried.
This is the Vietnamese classic: sticky rice. Xoi is eaten during many festivals in Vietnam, as it is considered a staple for all meals meant for worshipping the ancestors. It can be made with many different ingredients, including peanuts, mung beans, or fruit.
Travelling in Vietnam during Tet
Tet is one of the most festive times of the year to visit Vietnam, but it’s best to be prepared as this is a different time to travel to Vietnam compared to the rest of the year.
√ What to Expect
Vietnam is extremely festive during Tet, and you’ll see beautiful decorations and flowers everywhere at this time. The cities really do go all out with floral displays throughout the country adding to the amazing atmosphere throughout the country.
Add to this that the weather in Vietnam is actually the best around the time of the Tet Festival (February is generally the best time to visit all of Vietnam), it is certainly not necessary to cancel your Vietnam plans for Tet!
Many businesses will close their doors the day before Tet as this is one of the few holidays many workers in Vietnam get, and they may stay closed for a few days. This includes most museums, tourist sights, and shops. If you are traveling during this period it is a good idea to check opening times before venturing out to visit somewhere especially.
√ Tips for Visiting Vietnam during Tet Festival
If you are visiting Vietnam during Tet Festival, we recommend booking hotels and transportation in advance as there will be lots of people moving around the country to visit family during that week. You may have to budget for slightly higher costs too due to raised demand, especially if you’re not booking in advance.
The restaurants frequented by tourists are more likely to be open in the bigger cities, so venture out to the Western restaurants during these few days or the larger Vietnamese restaurants in your guidebooks. If you are uncertain, you can ask your hotel to call ahead to check opening hours during the festive period to avoid disappointment, and they will also know where is open.
Because some of the museums and art galleries will be shut, we recommend visiting the public parks and lakes which are always open. For example, in Hanoi is a great idea to walk around to soak up the festive atmosphere, as well as the Old Quarter.
Finally, bargaining is considered to bring about bad luck for the whole year, so try not to bargain during this special period. If you absolutely have to, try to be especially polite. It is best to save your shopping for right before or right after Tet!
Where to celebrate Tet in Vietnam for travelers?
The three best cities to travel to during Tet are Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, because, unlike other cities and small towns, many shops and stores stay open during the festival.
√ Hanoi for the capital’s celebrations
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, providing more options for visitors during the Tet period. Though attractions like museums, monuments and public service centers will be closed during the entire week starting from the day of Tet, travelers can still join in the New Year celebrations by walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake area.
Some businesses will be closed, but not all. Most graded hotels are open, and tourist-specific events put on a show for business. It is easy to find some restaurants for dining. Most grocery stores will be closed, but big shopping malls will open during the day.
We suggest that you arrive in Hanoi several days before Tet to visit the attractions and markets first and then stay there to experience the New Year. If you are invited to a Vietnamese family, it will be much more fun because of the interaction with locals.
√ Hoi An for traditional activities
Hoi An is typically considered the place to be during Tet. Shops and restaurants do not close down and many people travel to Hoi An to join the celebrations. Most of the festivities happen in the Ancient Town, which is an ancient port city and UNESCO World Heritage site in the center of Hoi An.
During Tet, the Ancient Town is lively and picturesque, with street-food vendors lining the ancient pathways, lit by Vietnamese traditional lanterns. There is plenty of shopping to do and even lantern-making classes to attend. For the whole week, Hoi An also offers regular culture and art performances.
√ Ho Chi Minh City for fireworks and flower festivals
Considered the “city that never sleeps” of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is a place known for its nightlife. Here there are parties, lavish dinners, creative and fun cocktails, and plenty of people staying up all night.
On the second day of Tet, or Lunar New Year”s Eve, locals will light fireworks in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and many people will head to the bars to count down to the New Year.
For those who want to celebrate the holiday just like the Vietnamese, there are two festivals that happen in HCMC at this time: the Nguyen Hue Flower Festival and the Tao Ban Flower Festival.
At these colorful events, everything will be covered in bright yellow and orange flower decorations, and there will also be folk music, games and delicious food to try!
Asia Highlights Can Arrange a Tet Tour
We can help you arrange a Vietnam tour during Tet, as our knowledgeable guides will know exactly where is and isn’t open, and can ensure you still visit everything you want to with a little bit of extra planning!
Because the weather in Vietnam is amazing during the time when Tet generally falls, Tet is a wonderful time to explore the best of Vietnam with our 9-Day tour! Send a free inquiry for a unique Vietnam expereince.